Category Archives: AAN

American Academy of Neurology: A new biomarker to monitor disease progression and treatment response in MS

blood-1813410_960_720A major research question in multiple sclerosis (MS) is to determine if a person with MS is progressing in their disease course and how they are responding to treatments? Researchers attending the American Academy of Neurology(AAN) meeting addressed this crucial question by looking at a new emerging biomarker for MS. Biomarkers are signatures found in the body that can be objectively measured and can be an indicator of your health or reveal the presence or progress of a disease. Continue reading

70th American Academy Neurology (AAN) annual meeting: leading researchers and clinicians will gather for the largest neurology meeting of the year

AAN logoAn intense week of latest and hottest research news and updates are awaiting the research team at the 70th American Academy Neurology (AAN) annual meeting that will take place in sunny Los Angeles from April 21 to April 28. This is the largest meeting of its kind, with over 10,000 people attending including neurologist and researchers from all over the world gathering to present and discuss their recent discoveries, cutting-edge developments and advancements. This diverse meeting focuses on many areas in neurology including multiple sclerosis, dementia, epilepsy, and other neurological conditions. Educational programs are also offered to clinicians to test their knowledge and stay up to date on the best clinical practices for disease treatment and management.

Several posters and presentations from the leading MS researchers and clinicians will keep the research team buzzing around to capture and report as much information as possible. We are excited to learn about biomarkers, risk factors for MS, treatment outcomes in clinical research, and pediatric MS, just to name a few!

Want to find out about what we learn at the conference? Check out our #AAN2018 #AANAM updates next week, both here on the blog and on Twitter at @Dr_KarenLee.

AAN: New answers to old questions about risk factors and disease modifiers

The precise causes of multiple sclerosis continue to baffle the scientific community, although in general most researchers agree that a combination of genes and environmental factors appear to play a role in influencing the risk of developing MS. In those people living with MS, there is a great deal of research ongoing that’s looking at different types of exposures that can impact the course of the disease, such as the rate of relapses, severity, and progression. At AAN, a handful of researchers took to the podium to present their latest findings about the genetic and environmental factors that affect the risk of MS and play a role in modifying disease course.

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AAN: Pediatric-onset MS – environmental and genetic risk factors

Between 2 – 5% of multiple sclerosis cases emerge before the age of 18. Research into MS in children and adolescents – referred to as pediatric-onset MS – is not only important for managing the disease in youth, but can also provide insights into some of the earliest triggers and drivers of MS, with implications for understanding and treating MS across all groups. Since MS is believed to spring from a combination of specific genetic and environmental factors, invited speakers at the pediatric-onset MS seminar session presented new data exploring these factors in children and adolescents.

Credits: American Academy of Neurology

Credits: American Academy of Neurology

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AAN Day 3: Researchers answer important questions about treatment strategies for MS

The conversations taking place on the third day at AAN shifted gears from the day before, placing the focus back on multiple sclerosis and exploring existing treatment strategies for people living with MS in great depth. Specific questions that were brought up include: does stopping immune-modifying treatment in those transitioning into secondary progressive MS affect persistent relapses? How commonly do clinicians switch their patients’ first treatment regimen, and why? What are the effects of specific DMTs on pregnancy outcomes in expectant mothers? Continue reading to learn some of the answers to these questions based on the most recent research findings:

Credits: American Academy of Neurology

Credits: American Academy of Neurology

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AAN Day 2: NMO spectrum disorder takes centre-stage for a day

One of today’s sessions placed the focus squarely on neuromyelitis optica (more recently expanded to be called neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder, or NMOSD), a rare autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) in which the spinal cord and/or optic nerves are attacked and damaged by specific antibodies. While far less common than MS, NMOSD can sometimes be confused with MS due to similar clinical features, although NMOSD attacks are often more severe than MS relapses. Two of the most common symptoms experienced by people living with NMOSD are inflammation of the optic nerve (called optic neuritis) which causes blurring or loss of vision in one or both eyes, and inflammation of the spinal cord (transverse myelitis), which can lead to a host of symptoms including arm and leg weakness, muscle spasms, bladder and bowel problems, and pain.

Since NMOSD and MS are fundamentally different diseases that require their own unique set of diagnostic criteria and treatment strategies, the panel brought together researchers at the forefront of NMOSD research to present their latest findings with the view to improve our understanding and management of the disease.

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AAN Day 1: Modeling MS-like disease and exploring risk factors

This year’s AAN conference is filled to the brim with programming, with sessions starting bright and early at 6:30 am and continuing well into the evening to accommodate the staggering amount of new information pouring out of the labs and clinics of researchers around the world. Headlining the MS program for Day 1 was a series of presentations about new insights into MS gained from animal and cell studies. Although modeling disease necessarily reduces the complex mechanisms underlying MS into simplified models by design, these types of studies are crucial for uncovering important clues about the genes and molecules that can trigger and/or drive MS and for rapidly screening new therapeutics with the potential to treat MS by combating harmful inflammation, repairing damage in the brain and preventing injury from occurring in the first place. The evening poster presentations were a departure from the morning’s seminar series, shifting the focus from basic laboratory research towards observations about risk factors that both influence the likelihood of developing MS and predict how the disease changes over time in those already living with MS.

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American Academy of Neurology meeting kicks off in Vancouver

This year, more than 10,000 neurologists and basic researchers from all over the world are converging on the stunningly beautiful city of Vancouver to attend the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 68th annual meeting.  Over the next few days, they’ll be resisting the temptation to hike in the nearby mountains or stroll along the winding ocean-side paths to focus on presenting their latest cutting-edge work to peers, exchange information and ideas, and form collaborations with the goal of advancing diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases. The conference also offers intensive education programming so that clinicians can test their knowledge and stay up to date on the best clinical practices for disease treatment and management.

AAN collage

Although multiple sclerosis is one of many topics that will be covered at AAN alongside dementia, epilepsy, stroke, neuromuscular disorders and other neurological diseases, there are plenty of seminars and poster sessions about MS to keep the research team and I busy over the next several days. Among the topics to be covered include: new insights from animal and cell models, treatment strategies and clinical outcomes, risk factors, advanced imaging techniques, pediatric MS, and the latest findings from clinical trials. Of course, Canadian researchers will be represented in strong numbers at the various sessions – a true testament to Canada’s reputation of punching above its weight when it comes to the breadth and depth of its MS research productivity.

Be sure to check in frequently for routine updates as I distill down the scientific details into digestible summaries and key findings. Follow me on Twitter at @Dr_KarenLee (hashtag: #AANAM) for live updates as they unfold. And of course, drop any comments or questions below.

New research finds that stopping treatment may have consequences in people with MS

Photo source: Center for Advancing Health

There are many reasons that people who are taking medications to help treat their multiple sclerosis might start to have second thoughts. Sometimes the side effects can be unpleasant or unbearable. Other times, the drug may not be helping them feel better or they continue to experience relapses. For some, the insurance costs may just be too high.

Until now, there has been very little information available about what happens when treatment is stopped in people with MS who are on disease-modifying therapies (DMT). Last week I came across a poster at the AAN meeting that addresses this important, unanswered question. Lead investigator Dr. Ilya Kister from the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Centre set out to determine what happens to individuals whose disease symptoms have been stable when they decide to discontinue their DMTs. This is an important question, since identifying situations in which it is and isn’t safe for people with MS to stop taking their medications will go a long way to ensuring that disease symptoms don’t come back.

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Positive results for progressive MS drug candidate presented at AAN

Research into the inflammatory nature of MS has led to profound progress in the treatment of the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. But this leaves us with many unanswered questions, and no treatment options, for progressive MS. Progressive MS bears severe consequences, including pronounced disability, cognitive decline, and extreme fatigue. As the need for treatments grows, so too do research efforts to help understand the onset and nature of progressive MS.

Encouraging results from one clinical trial conducted by Paris-based biotechnology company MedDay could pave the way for a novel, promising treatment option for people with progressive MS. The phase III, placebo-controlled clinical trial – dubbed MS-SPI – included 154 participants who were randomly selected to receive either MD1003 (treatment being evaluated) or a mock treatment (control) over a period of one year.

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